Baby Walkers Still A Safety Hazard, Pediatricians Warn

Baby Walkers Are Bad News for Babies: Study

Pediatricians push to ban baby walkers

"Despite the decline in injuries, infant walkers remain an important and preventable source of injury among young children, which supports the position of the (American Academy of Pediatrics) to call for a ban on their manufacture and sale in the United States".

Changes in safety standards led to a steep drop in the number of babies injured using infant walkers. Injuries dropped an additional 23 percent in the four years after the federal mandatory safety standards took effect compared with the four years prior, the study found. There have been tougher safety standards on baby walkers in the US since 2010, which researchers noted did correspond with a decrease in injuries, but thousands of babies are still injured each year. The researchers conclude that the rules probably slowed the number of injuries, but thousands of children are still getting hurt.

"Pediatricians have been against infant walkers for many, many years", said Dr. Scott Dattel, of Kansas City Pediatrics. Canada banned baby walkers in 2004. The United States, we just haven't banned it yet.

So, why do parents still purchase infant walkers? "That's enough to fill the Chiefs stadium three times".

The last study that looked at baby walkers occurred around a decade ago, according to Smith, and they wanted to update the literature on the subject with the hopes of being able to make a recommendation about the future of baby-walkers. He says stationary devices are much safer and can serve the same goal for parents, providing infants with activity stations without uncontrolled movements.

More than 9,000 US children are injured using infant walkers. And those injuries are increasing. That means that an average of 9,000 kids per year have been treated for things like broken bones and falling down the stairs.

Pediatricians have long warned against using baby walkers, and consumers groups joined them to call for a ban back in 1992.

Smith told NPR that "despite this great success, there are still 2,000 children a year being treated for injuries, many of them serious injuries, in emergency departments". But by 2010 the CPSC stepped in to give the safety standards of walkers a reboot, demanding that companies implement rigorous standards when it came to manufacturing. So has Dr. Jerri Rose, a pediatric emergency physician and professor at Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rose has noticed fewer babies coming into the ER with walker-related injuries, but they're still coming, she said.

"They're really not safe", she says, especially because parents often use them as babysitters so they can turn away and focus on other tasks.

A previous investigation identified eight babies who died from 2004 to 2008 as a result of injuries sustained in infant walkers.

"Infant walkers give quick mobility (up to 4 feet per second) to young children before they are developmentally ready".

Smith says parents often seem shocked by how quickly a child in a walker can get into a unsafe situation.

But many families still buy infant walkers, despite the warnings, and some families hand them down from generation to generation, the authors of the Pediatrics study write.

"There are safer alternatives that young children enjoy", Smith said, "such as stationary activity centers that spin, rock, and bounce, but do not have wheels that give young children risky mobility".

Amongst the top of the CPSC's concerns was preventing kids from falling down the stairs when facing the opposite way of a staircase, making sure that walkers were tipping resistant, making sure that walkers could bare the load of a child jumping and bouncing in his or her seat, and occupant retention (making sure that your child wouldn't be trapped in the seat by leg holes that were too small).

Ronnie Cohen is a Northern California journalist who frequently writes about health.

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